"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: March 2011

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Yanks Win, Let's Eat

Gotta love an Opening Day win, huh? Now, go grab a nosh, ya hoid?

[Picture by Bags]

At Long Last Love

After the long  winter we just had, I would have watched the game happy as a clam (well, a slightly grumpy clam) even if the Yanks had been blown out of the water. Instead, C.C. Sabathia pushed through a cold and slightly awkward start, the Yankees wore down Justin Verlander, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson put in early bids for their bounceback years, and the Yanks started 2011 with a nice 6-3 win over the Tigers.

The game began with the soothing routine of Opening Day traditions – the introduction of both teams (which made me miss Bob Sheppard, suddenly and sharply – I especially wanted to hear him say “Luis Ayala”), the fighter-jet flyover – I heard them on their way back here in Brooklyn – and a first pitch thrown out by Mike Mussina, who is now literally an Old Graybeard, three years into his retirement. His pitch, if you were wondering, was a little high but reached the plate free and easy. I miss him too.

For his part, Sabathia wasn’t in his full-on dominant ace mode, but he fought through to a quality start. A bases-loaded sac fly to Jhonny Peralta got the Tigers on the board in the second, a Brandon Inge single scored Miguel Cabrera to make it 3-2 in the 4th, and messy inning that included a Robbie Cano error and a number of lucky bounces tied the game an inning later. The Yankees kept tacking on, though, while their pen shut Detroit down. If the Yankees are going to win a lot of games this year, I imagine this will be a familiar pattern.

There were lots of good signs today. The lineup at a whole showed the usual Yankee patience. The bullpen was just about perfect, including Joba and pricey newbie Rafael Soriano, and of course Mo – now rockin’ the high socks – was Mo. A-Rod hit a long double that might well have been a homer with different weather. Russell “Hustle” Martin singled, stole third, and later reached on a throwing error and scored on a short sac fly, good to see from a guy who was criticized by many, including himself, for his lack of focus in LA at times.

Granderson made at least three excellent plays in center, including a diving catch in the 1st and an over-the-shoulder beauty in the ninth, and I was wincing for his oblique but he seems to have come through just fine. Add to that his 7th-inning go-ahead home run, and he wins the game ball. Incidentally, the homer he hit in the 7th – a long one to the same are as mark Teixeria’s – was off Phil Coke, who was part of the trade that brought him here last year, and is now taking full advantage of the Tigers’ facial hair and grooming policies.

Fun fact: According to Ken Singleton, Brett Gardner invited Kevin Long over for Thanksgiving dinner this past year. Long had plans with his own family so couldn’t go, but: awww.

Welcome back, everyone.

Sky's the Limit

Opening Day. It is cold and rainy in the Bronx but it today is Opening Day and there will be baseball. It’s been a long winter and I’ve waited months to clap my hands and say the following:

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

[Photo Credit: Pictures for walls]

Beat of the Day

 Shuffle along to this and bop your head. Let’s get it going, live from the BX:

Opening Day Dream

I materialize in a hallway. Not sure where I came from, and not sure where I am. Tall, skinny, pale blue lockers line the corridors. Teenagers pop into and out of focus at the perimeter of my vision. I’m vaguely aware that I shouldn’t be here, but the environment is familiar and uncomfortable. I am face to face with a locker and my hand spins in the combination with no input from my brain.

As the door opens to blackness, panic hits hard in the back of my neck and the residual heat spreads over my skull. No uniform. But wait, is there a game today? Is it even baseball season? And didn’t I graduate a long time ago?

I deal with the uniform first. Either my mom can bring it to the school or I can drive home during free period. A small risk perhaps, but most of the disciplinarians are looking to catch smokers, not naked ballplayers.

As soon as I conjure the solution, the uniform appears. That works too. Phew.

Next, I examine the weather and recall my most recent glimpse at the calendar. Yes, it is baseball season. It’s opening day, in fact. A whole, pristine season stretches out in front of me and all that’s left of the hot panic gushes out of me. In its place is joy.

But this cannot be my opening day, can it? I remember making a note that my opening days were all used up. But everything around me supports the alternative. It is my school, my locker, and my number 35 jersey slouching in my hands.

I must have been mistaken. I’ve got one more season left. In a few hours, school will end, and I’ll be shagging flies in left field as the sun sets behind the school gym.

Left field is the sun field at my home park. And for one inning of every game, I can’t see anything. If the ball gets hit to me, I have to hear it.

I’ve got to know what the pitcher’s got and what each batter can do with it so that I’m starting in the ball’s most likely landing spot. Then there’s the crack of the bat – is it true, is it solid? It would be great if the left-side infielders could help, but they’re mostly blinded too. The centerfielder is my best friend, whether he likes me or not, and he’ll help in two ways. He’ll yell “back” or “in,” and he’ll yell it with the appropriate inflection to communicate urgency. We’ve got good pitching; I almost never hear “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!”

I’m standing there now, testing a brand new pair of sunglasses that my father brought home from a business trip Japan. Supposedly you can stare directly at the sun and still pick out a mosquito zipping across the sky. We’ll see in the fourth inning.

It’s almost my turn in the batter’s box. We don’t usually take batting practice before a game, but maybe it’s a special treat for opening day? Maybe we’ve been snowed in so long this spring that we need some extra reps versus a live arm? I don’t know, but I’m not going to question the un-reality of this detail – pull a thread like that and who knows what falls apart with it?

I swing the bat in the on deck circle. The batting practice pitcher is a god of accuracy, wasting neither time nor patience as he rifles through the lineup. I’m squeezing the handle, testing the weight of the bat, taking short, swift strokes and approaching home plate.

I’ve walked these 20 feet hundreds of times in reality and hundreds more in my dreams. I stare at the pitcher, take one more purposeful practice rip, and then I coil.

I’m ready for anything, even waking up, but I’m hoping for a fastball.

The Show Must Go On

Ugly day out there for the start of baseball season. How’d you like to be a hitter facing Verlander or C.C. today? No matter, baseball begins and like Michael Kay at Mickey D’s, I’m lovin’ it.

For a series preview, check out our man Cliff doing his thing.

The Gift of Blab

I was on the Sports Casters podcast last night–”Baseball Bonus Show #1″–talking “Lebowski” and Ken Burns, Todd Drew and the new baseball season. It was a great time, dig it if you have many minutes.

Beat of the Day

I Can't Keep it Alive on 7th Avenue

Eh, I just had “Shattered” on the brain.

Oh, I'm Doing it Now

Albert Brooks is now on Twitter and the world is a funnier place:

Rough night. took ambien. woke at 3A.M. had a turkey sandwich. this morning daughters parrot’s missing. I’m shitting feathers. coincidence?
Albert Brooks

AlbertBrooks Albert Brooks

Just finished Mein Kampf. Had no idea it was the same guy.

Thank you, Mr. Brooks.

Taster's Cherce

Food and art collide at this sensational blog: scanwiches.com.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

 

I question the wisdom of having Opening Day on a Thursday at 1 pm, when most people can’t watch it. But, since I’ll be working from home tomorrow, I don’t question it too hard – the sooner the better. The Knicks suck, I don’t have a horse in the NCAA tournament, football is all horrifying brain injuries and labor disputes. GET HERE ALREADY, BASEBALL.

I went on record yesterday as predicting the Yanks to finish a respectable 3rd in the AL East, though I’m not as pessimistic as that may sound; I expect them to be a good, competitive team, just maybe not quite good and competitive enough. On the plus side, I also have C.C. Sabathia and Robinson Cano in the top three for Cy Young and MVP, respectively. I think it’ll be an entertaining season, which is what I mostly care about,

Things I’m most looking forward to:

  • Mariano Rivera. The one Yankee who is never overhyped, just that damn good.
  • Curtis Granderson. Maybe I shouldn’t have bought into all the fuss about his improved swing at the end of last season (small sample size and all), but I did, and I’m looking for a big season from him this year. Even if that doesn’t happen, the guy is extremely likable, so he should be fun to root for.
  • Robbie Cano. I don’t know if he’ll keep getting better – and that would be a lot to ask for since he’s already plenty good enough – but this is the first year, I think, that going in I’ve considered Cano to be a real first-tier star and not just a talented and promising youngster. A good second baseman who’s also a legit middle-of-the-lineup masher is a precious thing.
  • A healthy A-Rod in, possibly, one of the last years he’s young enough to make that contract seem like a good one. I don’t think he’ll be bad or anything, going forward – just a bit diminished with age (and aren’t we all?). I know better than to read anything into spring training numbers, but let’s just say it looks like Rodriguez is feeling pretty good right now. And that makes me rub my hands together like an old movie villain.
  • Brett Gardner. I keep waiting for him to crash back to earth… but maybe he won’t? Is he actually this good? How much more does he need to show before I start believing it?

There are also, of course, a few things I have a bad feeling about:

  • Ivan Nova. See, I’m not including Freddy Garcia/Bartolo Colon here, because everyone expects a fifth starter to be lousy. But Nova is in a position where, if he can’t give the team at least a solidly mediocre start, those losses are going to hurt. I think Nova could be solid in a relief role but that six good innings from him on a regular basis is too much to ask for; but the thing that gives me hope here is that he’s only 24 and threw well at AAA last year. Still, I miss Pettitte already.
  • Catcher/Backup catcher. Gustavo Molina is such an incredibly awful hitter that we will all rejoice when Francisco Cervelli turns up again, hopefully in a month or so. But then we will remember that – much as I like the guy’s effort and energy and persona – he can’t hit either, except as compared to Molina. That’s fine and dandy for a BUC, but meanwhile, Russell Martin is no Jorge Posada – not with the bat and, so far in his career at least, not with the work ethic. We’ve all been spoiled by watching a borderline Hall of Famer catch the last decade-plus, and I think we’re about to realize just how much.
  • Joba. For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

This was a long damn winter. Good, bad, whatever, bring on the baseball. And if, like me, Little Orphan Annie isn’t really your style, try this:

New York Minute

Via the Gothamist, check out this footage…I was 15 that summer (thanks to Bronx Rob, now Brooklyn Rob, for passing this along).

Million Dollar Movie

Roger Ebert on Elizabeth Taylor:

Most of us choose our favorite movie stars before we turn 18. They take possession of our imaginations while we’re still trying on role models. By the time we’re out of high school, we’re essentially who we’ll be for the rest of our lives, and although new movie stars are created every year, they will never have the same resonance of someone we fixed on earlier.

For many people under the age of 50, Elizabeth Taylor was something of a punch line, known more for her multiple marriages, her perfume line and her friendship with Michael Jackson. But for me and others of my generation, the death of Ms. Taylor took away one of the last movie stars who really affected us in our youth. I have no doubt that Meryl Streep is a better actress, but Ms. Streep is younger, and I’ve met her, and besides, she’s just another human being, you know? She can take consolation in the fact that millions of younger moviegoers grew up on her movies, and for them she will forever be a goddess.

Movies enter our minds more directly when we’re young. They’re realistic in a different way. There’s a difference between empathizing with a character and identifying with a star. When we start going to the movies, stars are leading surrogate lives for us. At the risk of tasking you with my infantile fantasies, I was, for a period of hours, John Wayne or Robert Mitchum or James Stewart. I believed Doris Day was just about the nicest and sunniest person on earth. I was not only in lust with Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, but in some way I absorbed their appeal and shared with them the knowledge that they were desired. They let me imagine how it felt to be longed for, and that was a knowledge sadly lacking in my real life.

Terrific piece. They don’t make stars like Taylor anymore.

Punch Drunk Love

If you dig boxing and boxing writing you must head on down to the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca tonight at 7. Banter favorite George Kimball, co-editor of “At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing,” will be joined by Pete Hamill, Mike Lupica and Robert Lipsyte.

Be there or be square.

Shoot the Moon

Here’s Chad Jennings with all the latest Yankee news. Oh, and Mike Mussina will throw out the first pitch on opening day.

Stacked

Yo, fellow nerdlicks, dig this: 20 essential blogs for the NYC bookworm.

Built to Last

Here’s Kostya Kennedy talking Joe D:

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2011 Season Predictions – Part 2

As promised, we’re now polling the Banter masses regarding various Yankee-centric items for 2011:

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver